• 2018-04-03


Can anyone explain precisely when and where 'company policy' ends and 'common sense' takes over?

Where exactly is the demarcation zone for people who actually need to make those choices while toiling on the front lines of customer service? At what point are they allowed to think for themselves and take action to remedy customer pain - even if it contradicts "company policy"?

If you and your company believe employees need rigid rules from modern-day Toby Flenderson's to be productive, don't expect to find many top performers willing to wear those handcuffs.

Whenever there is a conflict between common sense and "by-the-book" bureaucratic systems you and I see stories like the 19-year Lowe's employee who was fired for calling 9-11 after a shoplifter grabbed a chainsaw.  Sadly, strict policies and procedures often give otherwise intelligent adults excuses not to use critical thinking while on the job, for fear of repercussions and reprimands. 


An interesting twist in the tale developed, however, on a recent visit to Winnipeg.  The actions of a single customer service hero offers hope that common sense and initiative can still be employed to meet real-time needs in real-life situations.  

Meet us at the front lobby of a hotel in the Manitoba capital and take a side in the never-ending debate between Company Policy or Common Sense? ...on this edition of The Reinvention Chronicles. 



       Can I just say that of all the idiots in all the idiot villages in all the idiot worlds, you stand alone, my friend.   MICHAEL SCOTT, Regional Manager to Toby Flenderson

What have you been observing lately in your own dealings with organizations that rigidly follow company policy? 
Are there specific examples you can share where the systems are clearly broken and the employees are left helpless, wearing invisible handcuffs?

p.s… The French philosopher Voltaire once observed that "common sense is not so common".  More than two centuries after his death Voltaire would have been more than amused to see how this debate over whether to follow company policy or use your own common sense is also being fueled by these recent conversations in California as media analyst Mark Dice chats to passers-by about current events.


In the event you needed to know the correct way to share policies and procedures with respect to employee safety,  HR Director Toby Flenderson demonstrates his technique at a real-life Dunder Mifflin staff meeting. 

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